Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Great Coffee, A Long Bike Ride and A Face Full Of Stories - More From Myanmar

School children, Nan Hu village, Inle
Two years ago I had a memorable journey from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin when I spent  two and a half hours on the back of a motorcycle in order to visit this former hill station. That's two and a half hours each way, so five hours in all. I enjoyed the great views from the motorcycle but not the saddle-soreness the next day. This time I arrived by car and spent two days exploring the city in more detail. After wandering around the market and surrounding streets I was craving coffee. The town centre has many old style cafes that serve good tea but I was in need of good strong coffee. Not sure where to go, I asked for advice in Parami, an excellent Indian sweet shop and was directed to Cafe May Myo. I was not disappointed. The cafe is small enough to be cosy but designed to give a feeling of space. It also has outside seating. There are books and magazines to browse and old pictures of the city line the walls. The coffee used here is grown locally and customers can buy packs to take home. Perhaps best of all is the service provided by the very friendly, attentive and knowledgeable young staff one of whom made my French Press at my table using the latest technology. Regular readers know that I have a sweet tooth. Cafe May Myo also has a good range of fresh cakes and pastries including a fabulous fresh banana bread, an excellent accompaniment to the best coffee in town (and possibly the best in Myanmar). It is the kind of place where you can linger, use the wi-fi, relax or chat with friends.

Cafe May Myo, best coffee in town!
One of the best things about Myanmar is the hospitality and friendliness of the people. Pakoku is a market town, a short drive from Bagan. After visiting the market I noticed a large monastery and looking through the gates I saw hundreds of young monks. Some of them were chatting to each other, others were earnestly studying. An official noticed me and invited me in, explaining that there were indeed lots of monks there - 1334 to be exact, all of whom were about to sit a written examination. Before the exam they would be given lunch, seated at separate small, numbered tables bearing the name of an individual monk. An hour after lunch they would return to these tables for the more serious business. To my surprise I was invited to walk around, photograph anything I wanted to and to return once things got underway. I cannot imagine anywhere else that would have allowed such access without prior arrangements. 

Monks waiting to take an examination, Pakoku
Inle Lake is one of Myanmar's most popular tourist attractions. Most visitors spend time on the lake, visiting the homes on stilts, the floating gardens and pagodas and photographing the famous fishermen. As this was my second time in Myanmar I chose to do something a little different and cycled a round trip of almost 20 kilometres along narrow tracks in order to reach a remote farmers' market. Cycling through breath taking scenery I stopped several times to watch the workers in the fields and to chat briefly with people on their way to and from the market, women weeding a garlic field and a family that grows and harvests sugar cane for use in making molasses in their small factory.

Weeding the garlic, Inle
Molasses factory, Inle
The market itself was large, busy and full of interesting people buying fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, household goods and of course the ubiquitous betel leaf. Many of the people are members of the Pa-O ethnic group, easily spotted by their black clothing and brightly coloured head coverings - usually orange or red. This wearing of dark clothes began in the reign of King Anawratha in about 1000 BCE when the Pa-O were enslaved and forced to give up their previously colourful clothing. Their tradition holds that they originate from a relationship between an alchemist and a female dragon.

As well as the many stalls, the market has a pub frequented mainly by agricultural workers, all of them men. I spent a little time sitting with a small group enjoying their day off. Significant amounts of rice wine were being consumed accompanied by a variety of meat based snacks, cheroots and of course, much chewing of the betel leaf. They were interested to know about life in London, my family, home and other everyday matters. I disappointed them a little when confessing that football is not one of my passions as they included keen supporters of Arsenal and Manchester United! It seems that wherever one travels, even in the least likely places, people are followers of English football. I am reminded of two small boys playing football in the courtyard of a Yangon temple, pretending to be the same two teams and calling out the scores in English. I restored my credibility in the pub by buying a few more bottles for my new friends before I left.

When leaving the market, I noticed an elderly man with an interesting face. He told me that he makes and sells herbal medicines that can be sued to relieve muscle pain, headaches and other ailments. As he spoke he used his hands to express himself, smiling and looking more thoughtful depending on my question. I wanted to give him something and so offered him some sweets I had purchased in the market. He accepted them but insisted I take a small sample of his medicine "in exchange".

Traditional medicine maker, Inle
Pa-O woman with cheroot, Inle
The man who looked after my bicycle, Nyaungshwe
Pa-O woman, fruit and vegetable vendor, Nyaungshwe market
Nyaungshwe is a busy town adjacent to Inle Lake. It is used as a base from which to explore the water and the surrounding area. However, it is an interesting place in its own right with several very good cafes and restaurants and a number of temples. I cycled into the centre of town at 6.30 one morning to look for the monks leaving one of the monasteries for the daily collection of rice and other donations. It was cold, grey and misty and yet still they walked barefoot in single file stopping only when people stepped forward to make an offering. Several of them were very young as were the nuns I had seen earlier who were so cold that they pulled their robes over their shaved heads in an attempt to warm up a little.  After photographing the monks, I stopped off at the central market where the usual range of goods are sold and where many of the traders are Pa-O. Not wanting to take the bicycle into the narrow lanes of the market I asked a young man if he would keep an eye on it for me. When I went back to collect it I he refused to accept anything from me in return. I eventually managed to persuade him to take a single orange to give to his small child, carried on his back and wrapped up against the cold in thick woollen clothing.

Monks collecting the rice, Nyaungshwe
Nuns on a cold morning in Nyaungshwe
This young man was yet another example of the generosity and openness of I encountered in Myanmar. Time and time again people offered to share food with me or gave me extra fruit after I'd paid for my purchases - steadfastly refusing to accept further payment. Many of them were also happy to talk about their lives, sharing both success stories and misfortunes. Several women who had spent their lives working in the fields or selling in the market had been able to send one or two of their children to university and rightly expressed a quiet pride in this. One woman in Kalaw told me that after graduating her daughter had secured a job in Japan and that she had been there to visit her. The life of another woman in Kalaw had been less happy. She had suffered for many years at the hands of her husband who was both an alcoholic and prone to violence but assured me that her life was better now as the husband had died a few years previously. She said that had been the happiest day of her life. This openness can sometimes come as a surprise but seems  refreshing compared to the very different approach to life in Europe.

A face full of stories
Vegetable vendor, Kalaw
Pa-O woman, Kalaw market. her daughter works in Japan.
Danau woman, vegetables vendor, Kalaw
This openness generally includes a willingness to be photographed. This applies to people of all ages who happily stood for pictures or smiled when realising I had taken a more candid picture. It is almost impossible to choose but perhaps my favourite character was an elderly man I met who holds the keys for a temple a few kilometres from Pakoku. My first sight of him was as he stood on the banks of the river Ayeyarwady, wearing a crisp white shirt, lungyi and a patterned head covering whilst smoking a cheroot. At 82 years of age he walks five kilometres to and from the temple every morning in order to open it for visitors. Despite his age he is very fit and it was difficult to keep up with him as he led me from the river to the temple. He has a wonderful, heavily lined face, full of stories and framing a wonderful smile. At the other end of the age range I photographed a young mother and her baby through the window of a train traveling from Kalaw to Shwenyaung. Standing on the platform I noticed the child's worried expression as he  looked out of the window, perhaps wondering where he was. His mother nodded assent to a picture and was delighted when I showed her the results before I jumped back on the train to continue my journey.

Have we missed our station?
Myanmar is a wonderful place for photography and for anyone interested in people. Showing even a little interest in someone here can bring the most surprising rewards with life stories shared, friendships formed and memories created. I cannot wait to make a third visit, to again wander the streets of Yangon, to tease and be teased by the vendors in the markets of Mandalay, Pakoku and Nyaungshwe, to make new friends and to capture it all on my camera. The photograph at the top of this post illustrates everything I love about Myanmar and its people - the colours, the smiles, the open window on the lives of the people and most of all, despite all of their problems and difficulties, the joy of being alive.

I can't finish without including a picture of an Inle fisherman. Sure, it has become a bit of a cliche and some of these men might now earn more from posing for the tourists than they do from fishing but it's still a terrific scene and I can't resist it. I'm off to make myself a cup of coffee, purchased in Cafe May Myo...

Photogenic fisherman, Inle Lake
You might also like Mandalay Mandalay and Return To Yangon.

You can see more pictures of Myanmar here.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Travels with my camera 2018 - The Best Pictures

During 2018 I was fortunate enough to visit several countries. The most important piece of luggage I carry with me is my camera. It helps me to interact with people and places, to construct a visual record of my travels and to collect and preserve memories for the future. I use my pictures to illustrate my writing, hopefully adding visual impact to that of the written word. I share them on various social media platforms in order to receive feedback, provoke discussion and in some small way promote the places I've been to so that others may decide to go too. 

Next month, from February 4th-11th there will be a small exhibition of some of my pictures at Maison Bertaux, the famous patisserie in Greek Street, Soho, right in the heart of London. It will feature photographs from India and Mozambique whilst the accompanying limited edition catalogue will include additional images from the Philippines, Peru, Guatemala and Israel. This post highlights the ten photographs that received the most positive feedback on social media during 2018. They include one or two pictures from both the exhibition and the catalogue. I present them here with captions only, but over the last year I have written about all of them on this blog. 

If you like these pictures please come along to Maison Bertaux during the week of the exhibition to have a look at some more of my work...and to enjoy the superb patisserie in the cafe! Regular readers of my blog know that cake is one of my passions and will not be surprised at the choice of venue!

See more at @adrianyekkes and at flickr

If you are interested in any of these pictures or the catalogue, please contact me at adrianpwhittle@outlook.com

Please note: All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without my prior written permission.

Serene salesman and sleepy shopper, Ahmedabad
Juana, artisan, Cusco
Waiting for the shop to open, Mafalala, Mozambique
"Photo photo" Butcher, Libertado Market, Manila
The chicken man, Mumbai
The pain of memory, Jerusalem
Yolanda, selling peppers, Trujillo
The tailor, Tagbilaran, Philippines
Morning, Ahmedabad

Friends, Ilha de Moçambique

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Mandalay Mandalay

I first visited Mandalay two years ago when I spent my time visiting the the U Bein teak bridge at Amarapura, the temples, palace and nunnery of Sagaing and the "mini Bagan" at Paleik. Returning earlier this month I wanted to see more of the daily life of Mandalay's citizens and to capture snapshots of it in a photographic record.

Central Market, Mandalay
With this in mind I began by exploring some of Mandalay's many markets. Perhaps the most interesting is the central market with its hundreds of vendors offering fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, fish, meat, electrical goods, clothes both new and second hand and almost anything else you can think of. It includes a covered area, street stalls and informal vending that takes place on the railway lines behind the main building. Trains still operate here and when they are heard approaching the vendors quickly gather upon the parasols used for protection from the sun, place their goods between the lines and retreat for the few minutes it takes for the train to pass. Within seconds of the train going by, the parasols are back in place, the goods recovered and business is resumed. The whole thing is managed quickly, without fuss and with minimum of disruption to business. I tried to imagine something like this happening at home...

The train arrives
The vast majority of the stall holders are women. Many of them come from surrounding towns and villages, getting up early to bring their goods to Mandalay and to find a good position in the market. Daw Pu lives in Medaya, an outlying village. She gets up at 3 a.m. every day to take the bus to the city, carrying her stock with her and returns home in the late afternoon. I asked her if she goes to bed early, but no she stays up until 10 or 11, attending to tasks at home. She has four children, two of them at university. Several of the vendors told me they had children with degrees or studying for them and were rightly proud of this having worked hard so that the next generation can prosper. I photographed her and returned with a copy of the picture for her the next day. She insisted I take some butter beans in exchange! Several of the vendors agreed to be photographed and were a little surprised when I returned to hand them a picture. These included two very stylish young women, one selling vegetables the other selling clothes and who appeared to have recently spent some time as a nun.

Daw Pu from Medaya
Young vegetable vendor, Central Market
Young women with a clothing stall, Central Market
The tea man's son
Last year in India I became very fond of Indian style tea - hot, sweet and milky. I was happy to find it being sold on just about every street corner in Myanmar and consumed significant amounts of it. The central market has a number of tea stalls and I took a little time out to enjoy a cup at one of them. The owner's young son, perhaps four or five years old sat opposite me, assiduously ignoring my efforts to engage him. To my surprise he began singing something to the tune of Frere Jacques. It turned out to be the the Myanmar (Burmese) lyrics of that very song. I decided to turn the tables on him and joined in singing the French lyrics that I learned many years ago at school. Now it was his turn to be surprised. 

The fish market is a short walk from the banks of the Ayeyarwady river where at least some of the produce is caught. Walking through its pungent alleys I came across a small open fronted factory where people were making fish paste. I was struck not only by the overpowering smell but also by the visual impact of the backdrop to their work - peeling green painted walls bearing a couple of framed photographs and what appeared to be a small floral decorated shrine. I pointed the camera to take a candid shot just as one of the checked shirt clad women saw me and called out "don't show the picture to the boss, some of them are asleep in here" - much to the amusement of her colleagues. I was to come across a well-developed sense of humour throughout my time in Myanmar, something that gladdened my already won-over heart. 

I was introduced to what quickly became a favourite Mandalay stopping off point during this visit - the Arkar Min tea shop. I had breakfast here twice - excellent chai-style tea (which comes with a huge pot of green tea for free!) accompanied by fried chick-peas and a very crispy version of nan bread. Delicious. Just across the road from the tea shop there is a small local market. It was there that I noticed the first of many female butchers I was to come across in Myanmar - something rarely seen in the west.

Some of the produce sold in Mandalay's markets is manufactured in small factories tucked away in the city's many narrow lanes. These cottage industries provide employment for many people, often from several generations of the same family. Some operate from relatively sophisticated premises, easily recognisable as manufacturing concerns whilst others work within the living space of the owner. I visited a number of these businesses including one selling super chewy toffee, very tasty but devilish for the fillings. Another makes fried savoury crispy snacks. This one was especially interesting as packing for distribution to shops and markets was carried out on the bedroom floor of the owner who sat regally on her bed keeping an eye on things from above. In a second room two women sat beside a stove, dropping the flour based mixture into sizzling hot oil for a few seconds before lifting them out already cooked and ready for cooling and packing. They handed me one to taste. It was so hot I almost dropped it. 

Don't show the picture to the boss...
Female butcher near the Arkar Min tea shop
Making savoury snacks, a cottage industry
A short walk from the snack maker's place I noticed an elderly man sitting outside his house. U Than Myint smiled and waved and I greeted him with one of my few words of Myanmar mingalabar meaning hello. He responded in kind and I stopped to talk to him for a while. He told me that both him and his wife are in their eighties and whilst he appeared to be in good health, she was somewhat frail. He grew up in the countryside and had worked initially as a bullock-cart driver before coming to Mandalay where his family now have a car repair business as well as selling snacks. He has four grown-up children, two boys and two girls. He went on to say that his daughters are not married and looked after him and his wife but that the sons who have families of their own were only focussed on work. I am often surprised at how candid strangers can be when talking about themselves and those near to them. I liked his kind, youthful face. He let me photograph him and I agreed to go and look for him again when I am next in the city.

U Than Myint, former bullock cart driver and now businessman
On the riverside at 6.30 in the morning, I met some people who I may not be able to find next time I am here. The city authorities are undertaking a number of projects to improve the quality of life of their residents. These include working in partnership with Japanese cities to improve the infrastructure and environment. Related work is being undertaken to clean up the banks of the Ayeyarwady. Thousands of people have made their homes here for decades. Some live in makeshift structures temporarily in order to be near their place of work when crops are produced here during the dry season when the water recedes to reveal extremely fertile soil. Others live here more permanently and have nowhere else to go.  As part of a beautification project many of these homes have been removed and the residents offered new, relatively cheap accommodation in purpose built flats with electricity and running water. Many have taken up the offer, others have not including a mother and her young daughter that were preparing rice for breakfast as I walked beside the river. The woman and her husband work as porters unloading goods brought down the river for sale in the markets. They have six children. The two eldest are being educated in a monastery, the two youngest are less than 18 months old. Desperately poor she still offered to share her rice with me. Where will be this time next year I wonder.

Preparing rice on the river bank
Novice monks, a face in the crowd
I was up and out early that morning in order to see the monks out collecting donations. Monks and nuns are a ubiquitous presence in Myanmar. One afternoon after eating lunch at a quiet monastery near the centre of the city I noticed a large group of novice monks crowding around a snack stall. All of them were from Shan state in the north of the country and had been sent to Mandalay to study. The light was especially strong that day. Streaks of light and shadows from the trees played against the bright colours of the boys' robes and I couldn't resist a picture. I later realised that one of the young monks had turned around and smiled directly at the camera, a face in the crowd.

Arriving in Mandalay by car, I passed through an area known for its stone carving workshops. The street is filled with hundreds, possibly thousands of Buddha statues in different sizes and at different stages of production. Everywhere there is dust from the work of the artisans many of whom are themselves covered in the white particles produced by the carving and dusting of the figures. Few wear protective clothing and many do not even wear masks. I am told that they believe eating bananas after work helps offset the impact of breathing in the dust. I hope they are right. Several women are involved in the industry, primarily in cleaning and dusting the particles from the sculptures. One of them, fixing a drill, posed for a picture.

Woman worker, stone carving workshop
Entrance to a temple, Paleik
The girl with curly hair, Paleik
Although I spent most of my time in the city itself on this visit, I was keen to go back to Paleik, a village and archaeological site 18 kilometres south of the city. It is home to several hundred stupas, many of them ruined and some in the process of being reclaimed by nature. The village is home to several family run weaving businesses and the clacking of machines, both hand-operated and automatic can be heard everywhere. I like wandering amongst the stupas and the villagers are extremely friendly. Some of them came outside to say hello, including a deaf woman who was insistent that I should photograph one of her three children. The curly-haired little girl was wearing a beautiful coat probably made in the village.

I also met Daw Hla Hla standing outside her house which is more than 100 years old. She is 69, her husband 70 and still working in the fields. Most of their income comes from the sale of charcoal, used for cooking. They also grow and sell mangos. Daw Hla Hla was very proud of her children, one of whom is an engineer. She kindly invited me into her house to look at photographs of her when she was much younger including a beautiful picture of her and her husband at the time of their wedding. I left her standing proudly on the steps of her home, in front of the original heavy doors.

I've written this before, but Mandalay is one of those cities that fires the imagination through its very name. Much of its historical centre and mystique was destroyed in the Second World War but it retains a certain charm, full of life and possibilities. Those charms are not at first obvious but given a little time, gradually unfold and draw the discerning visitor in. Three nights was not enough. I miss the place already.

Daw Hla Hla, Paleik
You might also like Return To Yangon  or Myanmar Journey Part 2 - The Road To Mandalay

You can see more pictures of Myanmar here

Monday, 21 January 2019

Return to Yangon

I love Myanmar. I l especially love Yangon. That may surprise some people. Most visitors choose to spend only a couple of days in this former capital city, see Shwedagon and then head off to Bagan or Inle. But they are missing out on the glorious chaos of Yangon, a chaos lived out in streets that teem from early morning to late at night. It is two years since I was last here and much has changed. There more restaurants and banks and trendy cafes have popped up in surprisingly large numbers. Best of all, efforts have been made to clean up some parts of the city and to improve the environment of those living there - although a huge amount remains to be done.

Yangon is a city of contradictions. The influence of Buddhism is everywhere with monks and nuns a constant presence in the streets and yet the Muslim call to prayer is heard throughout the day. There are also Hindu temples, churches of various denominations and a synagogue that serves the remaining 20 Jewish residents of Yangon. There is even a Jain temple although that may now be without a congregation as I understand there are no longer any resident Jain families. The built heritage is also astonishingly diverse and includes some of the finest colonial period buildings in Asia. Many are decaying, some have already lost and others are being saved including the Burmese Favourite department store, established in 1918, empty since 2005 and now undergoing restoration.

Arched windows, Chinatown
Colonial building, Downtown Yangon
Entrance, Chinese temple
The best way to discover the secrets of a city is to explore it on foot and so during my recent visit I spent many hours strolling through the numbered streets, arranged on a grid system like that of New York. I delighted in wandering up and down the lanes, finding markets I didn't know existed, using my ten or so words of the Myanmar (Burmese) language to engage with people and to secure a photographic record of my trip. Knowing those few words  - hello, how are you? thank you - was in many cases enough to win the warmest of smiles and a hearty response, even if preceded by a look of surprise. There were some linguistic surprises for me too such as the two boys playing football in the courtyard of a Chinese temple, keeping score in English and pretending to be Manchester United against Arsenal.

I have already mentioned the ubiquitous presence of monks and nuns. They can be seen everywhere, collecting alms in the mornings and then walking the streets throughout the day. The monks early morning round to "collect the rice" is a disciplined affair, barefoot in all weathers and locations including the wholesale fish market where the ground is covered in waste. In the mornings people stand at the side of the road waiting for them to pass so that they can donate to them and then receive a blessing.  Most Buddhist men will spend at least some time as a monk even if they choose to do so for a short period before returning to secular society. There is no such obligation for women but the nunneries (like the monasteries) take in orphans and children from poor families unable to look after them. Many of the girls out collecting are extremely young, even less than ten years old. They usually walk in pairs or small groups but I came across larger groups of eight or ten on a couple of occasions.

Despite being an experienced traveler, I felt protective towards these children and began buying fruit in the mornings in order to give it to them as they passed by. I was aided in this by the generosity of some of the vendors who for reasons best known to themselves insisted on giving me extra fruit but refused to accept additional payment. I encountered this behaviour on many occasions during my time in Myanmar. But back to the nuns. On one morning having already given away all of my fruit I placed a few bank notes into the collecting bowl of the smallest girl in a very young group. The others immediately surrounded me calling out and holding up their bowls. How could I refuse? I could only think of my own grand daughters and how I would feel if this was their life. On a lighter note nuns come in all ages. I met two older women sitting outside Bogyoke Market. I asked if I could photograph them. They agreed but asked me to wait a moment to allow them to tidy up their clothing, taking my request very seriously.

A young monk at the fish market - notice the bare feet
Mister Ayub with his portrait
Ko Mint Lwin
Daw Khin Eye
If I have time and can find somewhere to print from a USB I try to return to the people who have allowed me to photograph them and present them with a copy of their picture. In Yangon I was able to do this for several people. These included some interesting characters. Mister Ayub has a shop in 29th street. His family came to the then Burma from Surat, Gujarat in the 1840's, established a business and have been in Yangon ever since.

Ko Myint Lwin is a barber. I noticed his open fronted shop and its very old furnishings as I walked the streets on the first day of my trip. His elderly mother, Daw Khin Eye was sitting outside the shop and told me that she thought that some of the chairs originally came from the UK. I treated myself to a 30 pence haircut when I returned to hand them copies of their pictures.

Ten years ago I bought myself a Vivienne Westwood sweater that I can't bear to part with. It has been repaired many times and I needed to repair it again in Yangon. U Zaw, owner of a small tailoring shop in the Bogalay Zay market fixed it for me on my second day in Yangon. He established his shop, New Land, in 2016 when he moved to the city from a much smaller town. It was also a new profession for the family as his father was an engineer who worked on the railways. U Zaw did not want to accept payment from me saying that I was a guest. I insisted on paying but again, the cost was less than a pound. He works on an old Singer machine.

U Zaw, a tailor with a generous heart
Dried fish vendor, wholesale market
Informal street market, Downton Yangon
Yangon is a city of markets including huge wholesale fruit, vegetable and fish suppliers, smaller more local affairs and large numbers of seemingly informal vendors grouped together in particular streets. On this visit I walked from my hotel in 38th to 13th Street, enjoying the chaotic scenes of Chinatown and the Indian Quarter. Here amongst the old but surviving shop houses I saw chickens being plucked in enormous vats of water, meat of all kinds being cut up and displayed and snacks, fruit, vegetables and household goods on sale. Vendors call out to attract customers and delivery vehicles manage to manoeuvre amongst the most crowded and narrow of streets, albeit not always successfully. On my final day in the city I saw a delivery van accidentally overturn the stall of a woman selling fruit. Some very severe words were exchanged despite the driver getting down from his truck to help put things right.

Porter, wholesale market
A cleaner environment
Since my last visit some efforts have been made to clear the once horrifying alleys that are hidden between the numbered streets. Previously piled high with domestic rubbish and overrun with rats a number have been cleaned up by Doh Eain, an NGO that works with artists to beautify public spaces. A few simple swings and slides have been installed and the local children now have somewhere safe and pleasant to play. The project was paid for through crowd funding, perhaps demonstrating the scale of the challenge and the competing priorities in a country trying hard to deal with many issues. Small scale community based projects such as this are important in supporting people to look after their own environment.

Regular readers will know that I sometimes struggle with food when traveling. This is because I am  1) a vegetarian 2) addicted to coffee and cake 3) picky. Yangon coped admirably with me. I returned to my old favourite Pansuriya which has good coffee and a variety of tasty vegetarian dishes. Food is served in a large airy room decorated with old pictures of Yangon and other memorabilia. But I also have a couple of new favourites. Rangoon Tea House is a modern version of an old idea, serving good tea and coffee, a big range of Myanmar traditional food and dishes influenced by other cultures. And for the most authentic experience, nothing beats Lucky 7 Tea House. A huge cafe, it is busy from morning to night, has great staff, serves great tea and the tastiest samosas I have ever eaten - and I've been to India twice.  You might need to wait for a table at both places, but the wait will be worth it. And what about cake? Well, there's always the Strand Hotel's cafe.

I said at the beginning, I love Yangon. I can't wait to return - and I won't wait two years next time.

You might also like Myanmar Journey Part One - Yangon

You can see more pictures of Myanmar here